Interview: Todd Stoops of RAQ and Kung Fu
Just last night, we had the pleasure of speaking with one of our favorite musicians, Todd Stoops (RAQ and Kung Fu). Kung Fu was preparing for the final show of their "Dirty Dozen" tour with fellow Northeast jam rockers, Twiddle. We've been lucky enough to follow Todd's career since the early days of RAQ, and simply cannot get enough Kung Fu. This explosive, lethal funk super group has only scratched the surface, and our conversation with Todd only validated why we love this band so much.
Interview by Jordan Kirkland - Live & Listen
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 13 years since you joined RAQ full time. The band quickly became a staple amidst the early years of modern improv/jam rock. Can you share a few of your favorite memories from those early days with RAQ?
TODD: 13 years?! Holy moly! It feels like yesterday hahaha! We had so many amazing experiences with Q that it's honestly hard to pinpoint. When I joined the band, we immediately hit the road on a pretty heavy touring schedule. I went from playing in bars around Vermont with my old band, to playing Bonnaroo and the first JamCruise, Langerado, etc. It was overwhelming to say the least! One funny memory was from Bonnaroo. I mistakenly sang John Mayer lyrics to Jack Johnson backstage, thinking it was Mayer I was meeting. It was dark, and I was wearing sunglasses. We all enjoyed a hearty awkward laugh
After RAQ’s reformation in 2013, a writer for Glide Magazine said of the band, "They've invented the concept of jam bands even having an old school style to bring back in the first place." We have since seen a handful of tour dates and festival appearances, most recently at AURA last month. How much touring do you hope to see with RAQ moving forward?
TODD: I have been getting that question so much lately! Playing Q shows has to fit into all of our collective schedules, and when it does its a beautiful thing! Expect some shows late Summer/Fall of this year.
I can only imagine how many times you have answered this one, but I have been wondering for way too long. Besides being a man amazing, and the best friend you ever had, who is Bootch Magoo?
TODD: I'm not allowed to disclose Mr. Magoo's true identity. Some say that Bootch is really a euphemism for the wild streak in all of us, or perhaps it's Crazy Tonie. Maybe it's me, who knows?
(RAQ performing "Bootch Magoo" at AURA Music Festival on March 7th, 2015)
Kung Fu has quickly risen to the forefront of constantly growing electro-funk movement. How was this project originally born, and how special has it been to see this band’s success and recognition over the past few years?
TODD: I took a break from touring with Q from September of '08 through April of '10 to be with my wife and family for the birth of my son Oskar. Q was touring extremely hard, and I didn't want to miss any part of my tiny son's life during that time. Kung Fu was an idea that sprung out of a Monday night jam session at an unknown spot in New Haven, CT, with musicians I had known for a long time from touring with Q. We had started a 14 week residency in November of '09, just playing fusion covers and a few originals. After the first show, every week of the residency sold out. So we started writing originals and focusing our energy on this new project. The momentum has been extraordinary, and we are all very humbled by the opportunities that Kung Fu has brought both individually and as a group.
(Kung Fu - Atlanta, GA - Terminal West at King Plow - 04.16.15)
How has the balance in songwriting worked with Kung Fu thus far? How are the vocal arrangements decided on with songs like “Gung Ho” and “Hollywood Kisses?” Do you find yourself taking on less vocal responsibility than with RAQ?
TODD: The songwriting process has been pretty organic so far. For instance, one band member will come to the group with a skeleton of an idea, and we all add our collective voices and personalities to flush the idea out, to turn it into a song. Within that process, we define our vocal parts and other responsibilities. With specific songs like "Hollywood Kisses," it came from all of us just throwing ideas out and seeing what would stick.
(Kung Fu performing "Hollywood Kisses" at Gathering of the Vibes 2013)
How much fun have you guys had this year while on the road with Lotus and now Twiddle? I would imagine that it has been great for additional exposure, while making way for some really fun collaborations.
TODD: We have had plentiful amounts of fun! This year has been a whirlwind so far, between JamCruise, the tour with Lotus and Galactic, playing some of the most beautiful theaters on both coasts of the US. Most recently the "Dirty Dozen" tour with our good friends Twiddle, every night has been hilarious and crushing. It's literally the best year so far, and it's not even May! We have been fortunate enough to play for tons of new fans this year, people that wouldn't necessarily come to a Kung Fu (or a fusion/funk) show, but end up being won over and raving about us. It's extremely humbling!
(Todd Stoops performing w/ Kung Fu - Atlanta, GA - 04.16.15)
As the summer festival schedule comes full circle, what excites you the most about 2015? Do you see yourself finding much time to get back in the studio, or perhaps even take a nice vacation?
TODD: Definitely getting the studio time this year! My wife and I just moved into an amazing house with a recording studio in the basement. So it's been pretty awesome to enjoy my downtime in the studio, and now collaborate with a bunch of my friends from other bands and projects. Who knows, perhaps there will be a new project this year as well...? And absolutely vacationing this year as much as possible!
For more information on RAQ and Kung Fu, check our their official websites and social media outlets linked below.